The restoration of two semiderelict former carpet mills has scooped this year’s Halifax Civic Trust Award.
The adjoining A Mill and B Mill at Dean Clough, Halifax, once part of the carpet-making empire of John Crossley and Sons, have been turned into offices for insurance firm Covea in a £14 million scheme.
The buildings were the first of the giant Crossley mills, built in 1841 and 1844 – and the last to be restored in a huge renovation project that has so far taken 34 years.
Only one smaller building, Marshall’s Mill, still awaits a face-lift.
Covea moved in last year with an official opening by president Thierry Derez.
Crossley’s which once employed 5,000 people in well over a dozen mills and weaving sheds, closed in 1982.
A year later businessman and pianist Ernest Hall, later Sir Ernest, and partners bought the Dean Clough estate and set about creating a “practical utopia” of business living side by side with the arts.
Today the complex employs around 4,000 people in about 140 businesses and other organisations. They range from the NHS and Lloyds Banking Group to a huge range of smaller businesses, including restaurants, bars and a post office as well as arts organisations such as the Northern Broadsides and IOU theatre companies and Dean Clough’s own six art galleries.
After lying unused for decades the restoration of the listed six-storey A and B mills was a major task, following a design commissioned by Dean Clough Ltd and executed by Paris-based Covea Insurance, whose British arm incorporates
former Halifax motor insurer Provident Insurance.
The place was infested with pigeons and one of the first tasks was to dig out an estimated eight tons of droppings.
The list of works included strengthening all the floors by adding new steel columns to the existing Victorian cast-iron pillars and laying new floors on top of the old.
Part of B Mill had shifted forwards over time and more steelwork was used to prevent further movement.
Two giant glazed lift and stair towers were built to replace inadequate staircases and the old projecting stair and loading towers turned into meeting rooms.
Architectural features such as the old columns, timber floors and magnificent roof trusses were preserved in the refit. Outside a dreary area of car parking has been transformed into a terrace with new steps, paving and stainless steel seats and handrails.
Covea’s new offices now house 720 employees, with room for another 60.
Halifax Civic Trust Awards co-ordinator David Hanson said the restoration of the last of the big mills was a landmark development.
“Dean Clough Ltd, Covea and their many partners, in this thorough, honest and thoughtful revitalisation of A Mill and B Mill, have done Halifax proud.” he said.